As soon as her eyes recovered from the sudden change from blazing sunlight to almost pitch darkness, she perceived a small black opening at the far end, and looking through it she saw a lightening of the darkness still farther in which tempted her on.
It was a tough scramble even for her, and the closeness of the rocks and the loneliness weighed upon her somewhat. But there was that glimmer of light ahead and she must know what it was, and so she climbed and wriggled over and under the huge splintered rocks till she came to the light, like a tiny slit of a window far above her head, and still there were passages leading on.
Next day, with Bernel and a tiny crasset lamp for company, she explored the burrow to its utmost limits and adopted it at once as their refuge and stronghold. And thereafter they spent much time there, especially in the end chamber where a tiny slit gave on to Port Gorey, and they could lie and watch all that went on down below.
There they solemnly concocted plans for brother Tom’s discomfiture, and thither they retreated after defeat or victory, while he hunted high and low for them and never could make out where they had got to.
Then Tom went off to sea, and life, for those at home, became a joy without a flaw—except the thought that he would sometime come back—unless he got drowned.
When he returned he was past the boyish bullying and teasing stage, and his stunts and twists developed themselves along other lines. Moreover, sailor-fashion, he wore a knife in a sheath at the back of his belt.
He found Nance a tall slim girl of sixteen, her childish prettiness just beginning to fashion itself into the strength and comeliness of form and feature which distinguished her later on.
He swore, with strange oaths, that she was the prettiest bit of goods he’d set eyes on since he left home, and he’d seen a many. And he wondered to himself if this could really be the Nance he used to hate and persecute.
But Nance detested him and all his ways as of old.
HOW THE NEW MINE CAPTAIN CAME
Tom Hamon and Peter Mauger seated themselves on a rock within a few feet of the narrow slit out of which Nance and Bernel had been looking.
“Ouaie,” said Tom, taking up his parable—“wanted me to join him in getting a loan on farm, he did.”
“Ouaie—a loan on farm, and me to join him, ‘cause he couldn’ do it without. ‘And why?’ I asked him.”
“An’ he told me he was goin’ to make a fortune out them silver mines.”
“Ouaie! He’d put in every pound he had and every shilling he earned. An’ the more he could put in the more he would get out.”
“‘But,’ I said, ’suppos’n it all goes into them big holes and never comes out—’”